Dir: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Tony Kebbell, Sebastian Stan,
(USA, 15, 2hr 3mins)
Nicole Kidman plunges deep into uncharted territory in this challenging police drama, almost unrecognizable as a very unlikeable detective haunted by the death of her partner.
Kidman transforms herself into the wasted, haunted Erin Bell, an anti-hero fighting the murk of entrenched criminality in Los Angeles. She is a pariah, a shell of her former self, drinking heavily and barely functioning on the job, determined to get justice and wreak vengeance on Toby Kebbell’s unpleasant bank robber, Silas. 17 years ago, she and her partner Chris, played by Sebastian Stan, had infiltrated Kebbell’s gang. Initially they pretended to be a couple, but inevitably became lovers for real. The tragic aftermath left Chris dead and Erin alone with their daughter, played by Jade Pettyjohn.
The reasons behind his death play out in a fractured time-line that can confuse, but is anchored by Kidman. We flash backwards and forwards in time, and via some nifty FX and prosthetics, we see the characters in their youth and who they are almost two decades later. Kidman’s looks fade, the weight of guilt etched upon her face; she clearly revels in looking damaged, playing with her glamorous reputation, whilst also doing justice to her distraught character.
Director Kusama delivers the goods in a tense heist shoot-out and certainly encourages Kidman out of her comfort zone with a bravura performance that skirts over the cracks in what could be a mere police procedural. Destroyer is a dark and bleak tale peopled with characters who are shadows of their former selves, dealing with tragedies and violence.
Kusama brilliantly captures these harrowed lives, but it’s not an easy watch as the traumas gradually unravel in Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi’s convoluted screenplay. Kidman has never been better, transforming from a fresh-faced FBI agent to a husk of a woman.
words Keiron Self
Out now in cinemas